Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 98 WCoZ Situation Report

Zimbabwe: The Numbers Go Up, while the Alertness and Transparency Go Down

98 days into the lockdown, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that as at 5 July 2020, the total number of Covid-19 had increased to 716 after 18 new cases tested positive. 15 new confirmed cases were recorded from returnees, while 3 cases are from local transmissions. We note the steady and ongoing rise in local transmissions which are now at 110. 

Zimbabwe is experiencing the 3rd spike of Covid-19 cases. We therefore today raise the matrix of everyday issues from a public perspective that paint a disturbing picture on possible spread of local transmission cases.

We continue to call upon the Ministry of Health and Child Care to ensure that it provides as public information the gender and demographic disaggregation on the daily updates. We call upon the same Ministry to provide to the nation and public analysis of the nature of the pandemic in the population who have fallen unwell and provide and picture of the overall scene of ill persons 98 days into the Zimbabwean pandemic. For example to date, because of the non-existent mass community testing and critical accompanying transparency, Zimbabwe therefore cannot confidently respond to whether we have sporadic local transmission or clustering local transmission or community transmission as defined by the WHO.

We draw attention to the report of the death of the 8th Zimbabwean patient from Covid-19 who was 21 years old, we continue to send our deepest condolences to her family and friends at this time. We call upon the young people to take Covid-19 seriously to take great care to wear masks, wash hands regularly and maintain social distancing. We remind young people that people under the age of 35 are susceptible to Covid-19 and great care should be taken when in social gatherings. 

Further we spotlight the weakness of enforcement practice on Covid-19 prevention regulations. We wonder whether Covid-19 regulations have been translated by enforcement officers to only apply to central business districts in the various towns and cities? and accordingly, further wonder if the enforcement officers believe that residential areas or communal areas are safe from infection?

Critical Emerging Issues

Improper and non-existent adherence to mandatory mask wearing 

Reports continue to reveal heightened lack of compliance with public health guidelines and safety protocols. 

Our networks in Hwange, Guruve, and Chivi have reported that the majority of communities no longer take heed of Covid-19 pandemic, as they demonstrate complacency and argue that the Nation is now out of the woods. 

Increasingly distressed and alarmed by the widespread national practice of non-wearing of masks and non-adherence to social distancing in both rural and urban communities which we have raised before this report, we highlight that public sentiment on Covid-19 clearly undermines the severity and importance of Covid-19 prevention measures.

Other reports have shown a continued improper use of masks, by the majority of citizens who move around with masks hanging on their chins.

  • We therefore urge proper use of masks as per the guidelines by the WHO
  • We further recommend enhanced awareness programmes by Government which is the lead player in a pandemic and strong the support of stakeholders such as civil society organisations and the private sector in raising critical awareness in communities on the reality of Covid-19.
  • We further recommend a strong campaign on mask usage and disposal we reiterate the common cited practice of persons “trying on masks”, the sharing of masks and the washing and reuse of disposable masks.
  • We reiterate that Government itself must speak out loudly and clearly on this issue as it reflect practical reality on the ground.
  • We further call upon Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, Councillors, District Administrators and government officials who when in public often wear their masks with their noses outside especially in public meetings and where there is press to desist from this practice. It fuels and reinforces a poor masks wearing culture and ultimately defeats the purpose of the mask wearing measures if national leadership is seen to fail to adhere to such a simple task.

Lack of Access to Travel Permits

We raise, with great distress, the challenges which continue to face in obtaining travel permits form the Police. 

Today, our networks in Bindura and Harare, intending to travel for a funeral, have reported that they failed to access travel letters from their nearest Police Stations after they were advised that such permits are not processed on a Sunday. In Harare, they had to be referred to Harare Central Police Station. 

We highlight this case as basic indicator of the poor coordination and efficiency of the Covid-19 lockdown measures especially as they speak to state operations and administration processes which ultimately leave citizens in unnecessary distress. 98 days into a pandemic which has been relaxed three times over we are perplexed and such system inefficiencies. This is not acceptable. 

We are therefore forced to continuously raise the point that such scenarios, which are not isolated as previously reported, leave desperate citizens at the mercy of enforcement agents, who enjoy a wide discretion regards movement of citizens during the lockdown.

We therefore urge the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Government to warrant smooth operation and implementation of the regulations in force, by ensuring that the rights and needs of citizens are met and fulfilled during the lockdown, and that those who require movement are assisted in doing so. 

Operations of Nightspots and Drinking Spots

Reports from our networks continue to indicate deeply widespread practise of the pubs, bars and drinking spots both legal and illegal selling in rural and urban communities who are selling alcohol and serving patrons well into the night and operating beyond the prescribed Covid-19 regulations. 

Today’s reports from our networks implicate the communities in Budiriro 5 and Kuwadzana.

Of particular concern are the reports of non-adherence to mask wearing, social distancing, testing of temperature and no facilities to either wash hands or usage of sanitizers.

Further problematizing such reports are reports that include the practice of enforcement officers frequenting the same spots or passing though without taking any actions.

  • We remind enforcement services that public policing includes community policing, which is centred on the principles of ensuring communities are able to respect the regulations and securing community cooperation. 
  • We reiterate that the above principle is foundational to enforcement of Covid-19 regulations and particularly to the ultimate goal of slowing the spread of the disease.

Safety of Public Transport

Reports from our grassroots networks continue to point to non-adherence to physical distancing measures while accessing public transport.

The lack of capacity by the public transport system to comply with public safety protocols must be addressed urgently before transport hubs and ZUPCO services become points of high-risk exposure to potential infection. 

We note with particular concern the inability of rural communities to access the ZUPCO services and in light of the Covid-19 regulations essentially leave the rural communities at the mercy of rent seeking behaviour by enforcement officer due to the context blind measures that have been put in place and impact negatively on communities across the country 

We highlight the disproportionate negative impact that women face in seeking to access health care services under this context as the mechanisms of their travel to local health centres, which are not always within walking distance have been left unattended to by the regulations placing enforcement officer in unduly skewed position of power to separate and vulnerable women.

  • We urge for rapid review of the public transport measures in particular to rural and peri-urban communities 
  • We call for the introduction of vetted public transport vehicles beyond the limited ZUPCO services to ensure underserved communities and groups are able to safely access critical public transport.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe